2020 Halloween lines up with the weekend, making us hope for one of the best Halloweens in a long time! Sigh. With the pandemic still raging on in the United States, it's time to start planning for some holiday fun at home. All's not lost! Halloween is actually one of the perfect holidays to spend cozily wrapped up on the couch enjoying a good scare-fest. Let the horrors on the screen distract you from the horrors of reality! *internal screaming* Here are some Sharp Glitter™ approved scary movie recs to have a good ol' spoopy fest!
Suspiria (1977) and Suspiria (2018)
Both of these movies are a great watch for entirely different reasons. They start off fairly similar, an American travels to Germany to study ballet at a prestigious school that harbors dark secrets. The original Suspiria is an aesthetic technicolor nightmare. Directed by Dario Argento, it is a classic example of the Italian ‘Giallo’ film. What is Giallo’? It translates to ‘yellow’ in Italian referencing the pulp fiction crime novels that were popular at the time. Essentially its Europe’s version of trashy slasher flicks with abundant gore and erotica. The original Suspiria is a fun watch all the way through, perfect for a midnight movie marathon. The new Suspiria directed by Luca Guadagnino borrows the name and setting from the original Suspiria but that’s about it! Subdued neutral tones with pops of red replace the rainbow palette of the original. This version heavily explores the impact of the nazi regime on post-WWII Germany. Brutal scenes of hyper-realistic gore convey the terror of a country torn apart by war. This ‘remake’ feels more like a spiritual successor. It explores feminism, queerness, and genocide. Not for the faint of heart! Both of these films are great in their own right. Give them a watch to compare and contrast.
I would be shocked if you hadn’theard of this one. If you’re a horror fan and haven’t watched Midsommar yet what are you even doing?! The second film from director Ari Aster will have you screaming “DUMP HIM” throughout. A young woman named Dani tries to move past horrific trauma by going on a group vacation with her unsupportive boyfriend. Yikes. Set against the bright and cheery pagan festival of Midsommar in Sweden, all of the nightmares that unfold take place in broad daylight. For a film that disturbed me so much, it’s also very funny. In the end, I felt oddly euphoric and healed. I know I’m not the only one who felt this way!
One of my favorite films of all time! An anime that encapsulates the creepy cute aesthetic perfectly. Directed by the masterful Satoshi Kon, the story follows a young pop idol named Mima looking to become a movie star. Mima has to make sacrifices and abandon her ‘innocence’ to realize her dreams. Throughout her journey to stardom, she slowly descends into madness, doubting her actions at every turn. All the while a dangerous killer lurks closeby… The themes of the film include voyeurism, the male gaze, and identity crisis. This dark kawaii thriller has a compelling mystery that will keep you guessing until the end!
The People Under the Stairs
This movie was truly ahead of its time, remaining incredibly relevant to 2020! One of director Wes Craven’s lesser-known films, it will have you laughing and cringing at the sheer absurdity. Protagonist ‘Fool’ is a young Black child who lives in a poor Los Angeles neighborhood. Facing eviction, he joins in on a plot to rob his elusive white landlords named The Robesons. As you can imagine, the robbery does not go off without a hitch. The Robesons end up being some of the most sadistic and twisted antagonists of any horror movie! A descent into the bowels of this hellish home ensues. This movie feels like it could have come out today (sans the awesome 80s special effects) exploring all too relevant problems of racism, gentrification, capitalism, and class.
I know what you’re thinking, a Christmas movie on a Halloween movie list?! Trust me, the holiday vibes only add to the creepiness of this influential horror movie. The setting will be very familiar, a sorority house stalked by an unknown killer during Christmas break. Black Christmas is considered to be one of the first Slasher movies, most notably inspiring John Carpenter’s Halloween. Director Bob Clark wrote the book on this genre. He employs the use of a well known urban legend flawlessly. The ending really got under my skin, leaving me more creeped out than most modern horror movies!
Everybody has seen Get Out (as they should, it’s an amazing movie) but the second film from Jordan Peele deserves more love! A family takes a summer trip to protagonist Adelaide’s childhood home. Adelaide seems anxious to return, experiencing flashbacks to a traumatic childhood event. Turns out her anxiety is warranted as they are not alone… I love the urban legend feel to this film. It begins with a quote across the screen referencing abandoned tunnels across the U.S. Whenever a horror movie is rooted in some ambiguous real-life fact it makes it that much creepier to me! It brings me back to being a child researching obscure stories and watching ghost webcams online. This movie's social commentary is a little harder to ‘get’ than Get Out but trust me, once you unravel it you’ll be going “Ooooooohhhhh!”.
Ya know that trope in scary movies where if a teen has sex they’re going to die? Without giving too much away It Follows takes this a step further, introducing a monster as an STI. The rules for this monster are established early on. If it’s passed to you through sex it will always be after you, slowly but unrelenting. It Follows handles teenage sex in a more realistic way than most horror movies. It’s awkward and at times unfulfilling. The aesthetics of this movie are *chefs kiss*. What era are we in? The sweet synth soundtrack says the 80s but the weird seashell tablet says some alternate future? Eh, the unknown year adds to the mystique of this creative monster movie.
The Love Witch
Witchy aesthetics abound in this campy throwback to 60s Technicolor Hammer horror movies. The witch Elaine is the embodiment of the femme fatale trope, a manifestation of men’s fears about women. The story is a feminist take on what it means to be a woman that can fulfill a man's every desire. Be careful what you wish for… Even if you watched this film in silence it would be a visual feast for the eyes! I can only imagine how many Pinterest boards Elaine’s apartment has been added to. The set pieces and costumes were in many cases lovingly crafted by the director Anna Biller herself. We stan a DIY Queen!
One of the classics that I never get tired of. A man is hired to take care of a hotel during its offseason. He brings his family with him and his wife ends up doing most of the work (of course) while he works on his novel. Their child has latent psychic abilities that allow him to see all is not well at the Overlook Hotel. Cabin fever sets in and all I can say is I’m thankful to have the internet during quarantine. This film has been spoofed so many times you probably feel like you’ve seen it even if you haven’t. The aesthetics that director Stanley Kubrick meticulously crafted still standout today. Even more creepy than the movie is the endless interpretations and conspiracy theories surrounding the film. You can go down a rabbit hole reading think pieces on this one!
While technically a thriller, this film has plenty of horror elements. Initially censored from worldwide distribution, this Japanese film gained a cult following after its DVD release. The themes of Battle Royale are incredibly relevant to the current political climate in the US. In the near future, Japan is hit by a major recession and is taken over by a totalitarian government. To keep unruly teens in check the government forces randomly selected middle school classes to fight to the death. Director Kinji Fukasaku created a new genre of films literally called Battle Royale where a group of people is forced to fight to the death. Hunger Games anyone? The over the top bloodbath keeps the anxiety at 11 for the entire movie run time.
If you’re a fan of the Silent Hill horror video game franchise, Jacob’s Ladder is a must-watch. The film revolves around a Vietnam vet adjusting to life back at home. He experiences vivid PTSD coupled with horrific hallucinations of hellish demons. When he tries to learn more about his condition it seems that a grand conspiracy is out to stop him. The design of the creatures plaguing Jacob inspired many of the monsters featured in Silent Hill and the movie is directly name-dropped in Silent Hill 2 and 3. You have Director Adrian Lyne to thank for the iconic monster head shake.
BOO! Haha did I get ya? Bet you weren’t expecting a jump scare at the end. I could write on and on about horror movies but I’ll leave it at this. Sike! Here are a few honorable mentions:
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
The Stepford Wives (1975)
Jeez, I could talk about horror movies forever.
Let me know in the comments if you watched any of these movies or if you have any suggestions! You can probably tell by my list that I love surreal and social commentary horror. Or ya know, anything aesthetic! Have fun with your Netflix and chills.
So, until next time... unpleasant dreams! Sharp Glitter P.S. Stay tuned for the next part in the series.